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Emory School of Nursing faculty receive $5.1 million grant to address pain management among Asian American breast cancer survivors with depression
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Due to the cultural stigma attached to breast cancer, cultural stoicism toward pain and symptoms, and language barriers, Asian American breast cancer survivors — especially those with depression— tend to suffer unnecessarily from pain that could be easily managed with pharmacological and other treatment strategies.

Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing professor Eun-Ok Im, PhD, MPH, RN, CNS, FAAN, and research professor Wonshik Chee, PhD, intend to address this reality with the assistance of a five-year, $5.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

While most Asian American breast cancer survivors tend to struggle with cultural barriers that impact pain management, those with depressive symptoms are even more likely to have inadequate pain management due to their depression, according to Im.

“Pain can further deteriorate depression, and both the pain and the depression increase,” says Im, whose work focuses on women’s health and oncology nursing. She adds that the recent opioid crisis has exacerbated patients’ fear of addiction and reluctance to seek help with pain management.

The aim of the grant is to provide a prototype of a culturally tailored, technology-based program for pain management for patients exhibiting depression and test the prototype among 300 Asian American breast cancer survivors, adapting an existing program with additional components addressing depression.

“A technology-based approach using computers and mobile devices promises to meet the necessity of this specific population with high flexibility, accessibility and anonymity,” says Chee, who is an expert in research methodologies involving Internet Web application development.

Ultimately, the research project will contribute to reducing ethnic disparities in the health and disease experience. “This work will provide direction for culturally competent health care services, specifically for adequate pain and symptom management of racial and ethnic minority cancer survivors,” says Im, who also serves as senior associate dean for research and innovation and Edith Folsom Honeycutt Endowed Chair at the School of Nursing.

This grant is part of the National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative.


About the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing  

Emory Universitys Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing produces nurse leaders who are transforming health care through science, education, practice and policy. Graduates go on to become national and international leaders in patient care, public health, government, research and education. Others become qualified to seek certification as nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives. The doctor of nurse practice program trains nurse anesthetists and advanced leaders in health care administration. The school also maintains a PhD program in partnership with Emorys Laney Graduate School. For more information, visit

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